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The Druid Connection

Novel by Guy N Smith (England) 1983.

Hired by the church to look into the churchyard of St. Monica's, scene of the particularly nasty murder of its young curate and the driving insane of a competent exorcist, Mark Sabat discovers that the problem lies with plans by corrupt officials to sell off church land held in trust to a housing developer. Sabat then finds himself fighting against the whole scheme on behalf of the spirits of the Oke priests, ancient druids who used the land for thousands of years before the Christian Church ever took possession.

Returning to the enthusiasm of The Graveyard Vultures, the first Sabat book, but writing with greater skill, Guy Smith gives us not only numerous references to previous Sabat novels, but also kills off a Philip Owen in the opening pages. Die hard fans will recognise the name as the title character in Smith's very first book, Werewolf by Moonlight. After denying Mark Sabat much of the action in the previous book, Cannibal Cult, Smith wisely counters this by leaving his evil brother Quentin out of this one, leaving Mark to dominate in what is by far the best Sabat book. Mixing a deep cynicism of organised religion with an intense belief in all things religious and supernatural, Smith continues the wonderful contrasts in his character.

It's a pity that this was Sabat's last appearance, because the author was starting to succeed with the character, providing him with better opponents, more action, and more obscure occult references every book (including here the wonderfully named Hirschlanden Warrior of L'Impernal and the Lupercal Cave). But there's always a chance of more: in the early 1990s when Smith became the best-selling horror author in Poland, the Poles mounted a campaign for more Sabat. As the author has always had a soft spot in his heart for the character (with whom he shares many details: they were born on the same day, educated at the same places, even their parents' names are the same), it's well within the bounds of possibility that one day he will return to the series. Addicts can currently satiate their thirst with Dead Meat, a compilation volume comprising all four Sabat novels together with two Sabat short stories.

When sounding out the series, Smith wrote detailed synopses, including chapter breakdowns, for all the then proposed Sabat books. These included book five, The Soul Stealers, in which a couple of aged sorcerers who have discovered the secret of immortality accidentally release Quentin from Sabat's body; book six, The Shaitan, in which Quentin temporarily takes control in order to resurrect an ancient Egyptian sorcerer who was actually Quentin in a previous life; and book seven, The Anti-Christ, in which Sabat battles the Anti-Christ who has taken the form of a beautiful and famous sex symbol. Other possible Sabat novels included The Exhumed, in which building contractors discover the bones of Satan himself. All of these look thoroughly worthwhile and we can only hope that one day Guy will get round to writing them.

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